COLIN POWELL IS FLAWLESS (NOT)
by Norman Solomon
American Reporter Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- There's no doubt about it: Colin Powell is a great performer, as he showed yet again at the U.N. Security Council the other day. On television, he exudes confidence and authoritative judgment.
But Powell owes much of his touted credibility to the fact that he's functioning inside a media bubble that protects him from direct challenge.
Powell doesn't face basic questions like these:
If Colin Powell faced such questions on a regular basis, his media halo would begin to tarnish. Instead, floating inside a media bubble, he moves from high-level meetings to speeches to news conferences where tough questions are rare. And when Powell appears as a guest on American media outlets, he doesn't need to worry that he'll encounter interviewers who'll challenge his basic assumptions.
Tacit erasure of inconvenient history -- including his own -- is integral to the warm relationship between Powell and U.S. news media. There's a lot to erase. For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top aide to Pentagon chief Caspar Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, and then sought to hide the transaction from Congress and the public. No wonder: Almost half of those missiles had become part of the Iran-Contra scandal's arms-for-hostages deal.
As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell worked diligently on behalf of the contra guerrillas who were killing civilians in Nicaragua. In December 1989, Powell -- at that point the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- was a key player behind the invasion of Panama.
The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American political stardom in early 1991. When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll from that war, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him.
At the U.N. on Feb. 5, in typical fashion, Powell presented himself as an implacable foe of terrorism -- much as he did on Sept. 11, 2001, when he denounced "people who feel that with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose." While aptly condemning the despicable hijackers who murdered thousands of people on that day, Powell was also using words that could be applied to a long line of top officials in Washington. Including himself.
At this point it seems that only a miracle could prevent the Bush administration from going ahead with its plans for a horrific attack on Iraq, sure to kill many thousands of civilians. The U.S. leaders will demonstrate their evident belief that -- in Colin Powell's apt words -- "with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose." To the extent that the media bubble around them stays airtight, Powell and his colleagues are likely to bask in national acclaim.
For an in-depth analysis of Colin Powell's role in setting the media agenda for a war on Iraq in 2003, go to www.accuracy.org/unilateral.pdf - an excerpt from "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You," a new book by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, just published as a paperback original by Context Books. For the prologue to the book and information on how to order, go to: http://www.contextbooks.com/newF.html